Monday, July 24

C is for cucumber

The predominant memory of last week's harvest is of travelling home with the car filled with a scent that was a mixture of ripe strawberries and sweet peas.
17 July
The Malwina strawberry plants are shrugging off the lack of rain and producing lots of their delicious fruits. They have definitely prevented our strawberry harvest from being a disappointment this year.
18 July
Each visit to the plot also sees us coming away with a large tub of very tasty Tulameen raspberries. We have also picked a sprinkling of All Gold autumn raspberries.

Our fruit collection was tending to be dominated by darker coloured berries. There were lots of blackcurrants to be picked which is quite a tedious job and took far longer than the blackbird liked. It frequently had to take sudden evasive action, always accompanied by squawking disapproval, as it was late in spotting one of us crouched amongst the bushes.

The blueberries are still ripening steadily and the fruit of the thornless, Loch Ness, blackberry is starting to ripen.
We also picked some very sweet ripe wine coloured gooseberries. The variety is unknown as they came from cuttings from a plot neighbour's plants. The berries are small and a dusky, dark pink when ripe.

We picked the first few chard leaves. It's a while since we have grown chard as we found the taste rather earthy but we've decided to give it another go. It maybe that the stems are the earthy tasting part. It just seems that many people harvest chard when not much else is growing so we thought we may be missing something. 
We picked our first couple of handfuls of Cobra, climbing French beans. As we have picked the last of the first lot of cauliflowers we are moving from brassicas and into beans.

We are still harvesting peas from our first sowing. These are nearly finished now but the second sowing now has pods swelling.
22 July
The courgettes haven't yet assumed unmanageable glut proportions and we have picked our first two Burpless Tasty Green cucumbers. One had been nibbled at the end and both were an appropriate C shape. Supermarket rejects for sure but certainly not rejected by us.
Last week, I posted about how we are growing watercress in our garden pond. We've been picking it as required for a while but it has never been photographed so this week I put that right.

The sweet peas are now providing armfuls of flowers. Most of the flowers are still being supported on extremely long stems. Has anyone else found this to be the case with their sweet peas this year?

For those of you who have said you enjoy watching the videos of our plot, last week I put together a film showing the fruit trees that are planted on the plot. It's about 14½ minutes long.  

As usual I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Friday, July 21

Water gardening

Several years ago (according to my photo library it was in 2008!) we noticed this plant growing in our pond.
We were almost sure that it was watercress that had somehow arrived unannounced and been growing quietly unnoticed. The niggling little doubt though meant that we just were not confident enough to harvest it and we unceremoniously removed it.

Then in 2013 (aren't photo libraries wonderful for tracking dates?), we decided to have a go at growing some watercress in a pot. We easily rooted some sprigs bought from the grocer and planted them up.
The pot was placed in a tray of water and grew reasonably well.
However, it didn't really produce enough to provide a worthwhile harvest and the water became stagnant if we forgot to change it.

The idea of growing watercress disappeared from our consciousness until Mark mentioned that he was growing some and described his methods on his blog here.

Then we bought some planting baskets for the pond to try and protect the frogspawn from becoming fish food.
Later the cogs started turning - as they do. If watercress could grow wild in our pond why couldn't we plant some.
We bought a bunch from the local greengrocer and I placed one small sprig in  a glass of water.
Within a couple of days or so roots had grown.

The rooted piece of watercress was plopped - literally - into the basket that was already in the pond and just left. Really the basket was just to keep the watercress in place and stop it floating about. It grew fairly slowly at first but now it looks like this.
Soon it will need a good trim but it is providing us with a ready supply of fresh watercress with absolutely no effort needed on our part.
That's what I call a low maintenance crop. Does anyone know whether watercress is a hardy plant?

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Wednesday, July 19

One swallow

Monday, July 17

Guess who likes jostaberries?

Last week there was another first in our harvest box.
Our first cauliflower from the collection of early brassicas bought from D T Brown. It's the first time we have bought plants from this company and the first time that we have grown this variety of cauliflower - Helsinki. The only downside is that it looks as though the cauliflower heads will all come at once so some will have to end up in the freezer. Lack of moisture means that the large brassica plants are flagging.
12 July
We are still harvesting cabbage although they are starting to split. The splitting so far is only affecting the top layers of leaves so there's plenty of usable cabbage.
14 July
The first row of Casablanca potatoes have now been lifted. Incredibly we haven't come across even one spoiled potato, no form of damage whatsoever.
We have sown another row of peas into the space that the potatoes have vacated.  
We have a row that we are picking at the moment, a row that is just starting to flower, one row that isn't yet at flowering stage and now this one. The aim is for a long lasting succession but this may be wishful thinking. The pods of the peas that we are harvesting at the moment are rather tatty looking but the peas inside are fine which is all that really matters.

The mangetout didn't germinate well but last week we managed a small picking.
The sweet peas are now starting to produce more flowers. I'm hoping that the pollen beetles that seem to be everywhere this year don't home in on them as they will cluster inside the keel petals and spoil their use as cut flowers. When that happens the beetles have to be in some way evicted before the flowers can be brought indoors.
The sweet pea stems are incredibly long this year. Maybe my watering regime has suited them more than in previous year when I have watered less relying more on natural irrigation.
15 July
The first of the three dahlias that we bought for the perennial border at the allotment is flowering.
It's lovely but ... which of these do you think it is?
It will be interesting to see what colours the other two plants will turn out to be.

We are managing to harvest some bits and pieces of salad ingredients including some watercress which so far hasn't made it in front of the camera but I will be giving it a post of its own shortly.
16 July
Hidden in the plastic bag on the left of the photo above is a selection of radishes as shown below. after pulling these were quickly popped into the bag to keep them fresh and crisp.
We're still picking berries. Every couple of days there is at least one large punnet of Tulameen raspberries. I'm still picking blueberries from our earliest fruiting bush and the second bush now has berries ripening. The bushes are performing well this year and producing some strong new shoots.

The Malwina strawberries are providing more delicious berries.

The berries are still a good size.
We are being kept busy picking blackcurrants ...
... and continuing the black theme, the blackberries are starting to ripen. The canes are loaded with fruit. Fortunately, as the canes are thornless picking is painless. 

We now have more them enough jostaberries in the freezer and so now the wildlife is enjoying the leftovers. The blackbird hardly bothers to fly out of the bush when we pass by.
It isn't surprising that the birds are attracted to the berries but someone surprising seems to enjoy browsing on the jostaberries that have fallen from the bush.
Just to prove this, I filmed a short video of the little one above in the act.

I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Saturday, July 15

Change of plan

About seven years ago, I planted some lavender plants that had been raised from cuttings to create a hedge around two of our fruit beds.
Over the years they grew to make large plants which were trimmed back each year after flowering. As the plants grew so unfortunately did the grass between the plants. I removed as much as I could but now the edging is looking untidy and in need of a makeover.

With this in mind, last May when I saw that Thompson and Morgan had an offer of 72 lavender plug plants for £2.00, I decided to order some.
There were two varieties - Hidcote and Munstead. As the plants were tiny, I first planted them in module cells and then into what was meant to be a nursery bed.
The plants grew quickly and by September were flowering, providing the bees with a late supply of nectar. After flowering the plants were trimmed to keep them neat and bushy.

Not all of the plants survived winter but those that did have grown into strong plants and the nursery bed has become a sea of deep purple flowers. It seems impossible to do the bed justice in a photograph. 

This posed a dilemma as the intention had been to replace the lavender edging with these new plants, but we really like the mass planting effect in the nursery bed and so the plan has changed and the lavenders will stay put.
To fill the gaps where plants didn't survive over winter, I have taken cuttings of Hidcote that seems to be the stronger of the two varieties and the one to suffer no winter losses. 
So that leaves me with the tatty edging to replace. I've decided that once the flowers fade, I will dig up the plants, remove the entangled grass etc and then replant them deep into the ground and hope that they regenerate.

Best laid plans eh?

In answer to Belinda's query on her blog - so far I have never used any flowers in cooking. I do cut some for a vase but mostly the bees and I enjoy them just where they are.

Wednesday, July 12

Petals and wings